A staph infection called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, has infiltrated dozens of jails from California to New Jersey this year and now seems to be exploding inside the St. Louis County Jail, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The jail has treated 41 cases so far this year, up from 17 in the previous three years combined. The jail, which houses 11,000 inmates a year, has had 69 cases of staph so far this year. By comparison, the jail treated 52 cases of staph in 2002, of which there were only four cases of MRSA.
The infection has become a problem for hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional facilities. Dr. Marcia Sokol-Anderson, an infectious diseases expert at St. Louis University, said MRSA was quickly reaching epidemic proportions. “We first saw it pop up in hospitals,” she said. “It is spreading pretty much anywhere groups of people are kept together.” In St. Louis County, jail inmates will be given towelettes to clean their living areas. Last month, officials at the Warren County Jail in New Jersey wrestled with an outbreak. They separated the infected inmates from the rest of the jail population. In March, Pennsylvania officials in Allegheny County and Burlington County also faced staph outbreaks. Three inmates in those two counties died of MRSA-related illnesses.